The Depth Question

On 5Bling’s Leaving The Worst Behind Them fan post, our roster and depth came up again. After this last week, when I watched a flurry of great posts come out about things that I had outlined for my Forward Thinking Vol II post, I have come to realize that as a fan who is posting you don’t have to have a ton of stats to post. Sometimes a subjective question with a logical opinion is enough, especially during the lockout. Ironically, this will be my first post that requires in-depth statistical analysis.

I have commented on our depth enough lately that this is worth writing. Things will change quickly when the CBA is signed and FA starts, so I need to do this now as familiarization with league rosters. This post addresses where we feel the Cowboys’ roster ranks among the league. The conversation started as who inherited a worse situation, Coach Johnson or Coach Garrett, hence, we are talking about whose roster would you take today, not potential of FA landings or losses. IMO, Jimmy had it worse by a mile; Jerruh was right when he said that 10,000 coaches could take our early ‘90’s team to a SB, he just forgot who built it.

I have never seen this many recommended fan posts. FT vol II got recs and did not make the rec’d fp list. I don’t believe we are rec’ing more due to lockout inactivity; we are pumping out articles that are genuinely good. Better than most paid sites and we aren’t even front page writers. Good luck with FPOTW, KD, you’re hosed.

I’m only going to discuss teams whose rosters have an overall strength close to ours, arguably. This post is about overall roster strength, not coaching (a gray area, as position coaches impact player performance dramatically) or W-L record. They must have a franchise or very good young QB. I will be including this year’s draftees as during a normal season they would already be a part of the organization.

Star power will be graded. That includes demanding double teams, instilling fear or game planning necessity, making those around you better, leadership capabilities, not making negative headlines and making big plays.

I am giving weight to team stats, as this IS all about depth. These will be recent points/yards allowed/achieved, sacks allowed/achieved, penalties and turnovers given/taken and big plays (25+ yards,). ST all aspects will be considered. Also I consider relative strength of division teams compete in.

Glaring holes are a minus. I’m not familiar with many of the other teams’  2011 late-round draft picks, so if they at least made an effort to fill said holes I will be more gentle. Blue collar positions will be weighted slightly more heavily than skill position strength.

Nods to,,, O.C.C.,

COWBOYS: I believe our skill position strength is best in league offensively . We have a top 10 QB and two competent backups. We have three of the top sixty WRs and three (four?) of the top seventy-five RBs in the league. We also have Witten, who legitimately contributes to “skill position” metrics on top of blue-collar productivity. I would rank skill position depth mid-pack defensively, that is including all LBs and safeties, as positions are both prolific and very specialized, each in several disciplines. Even with Ware and James this group does not stack up well overall. We have serviceable but inconsistent corners including Ball and Scandrick. Sensabaugh is a serviceable SS, but our other S hope comes from JT, Sendejo and AOA, who have proven nothing-to-little in the pros.

Blue collar/trench strength is about #8 Offensively, being saved by new draftees and our TE depth and blocking ability. We finally can probably piece together a quality O-line with a mean age of under thirty, however lack any proven depth. We have two FBs that I personally like, but have a combined one year pro experience. Our Defensive line (T and DEs only for this) are probably #25, saved by Rat and Bowen’s potential, but again, lacking any depth.

Our star power is among best in league, except I’m not sure I’d say we make each other better and we don’t have a Ray Lewis on our D. We make big plays, but surrender some also.  Our turnover ratio has been a wash over the last several years, and we lead the league in stupid penalties over the last four years. In recent history we have played very well offensively and defensively, but do not do so consistently or for entire games.

Reading that, I don’t think I should have been touting our roster as highly as I have been. It is a homer statement, but I believe we have a roster that underachieves. If individuals played to their levels the team could be very deep, we are talent-laden. Have to see if that feeling changes after looking at other teams’ complete rosters.

JETS: They are the total package defensively. They give nothing. Do not cause interceptions, but cause and recover a lot of fumbles. Bart Scott leads a talented D who is a direct reflection of its coach. Depth would be a question I had. They have a lot of young talent and I am not that familiar. Definitely lack QB depth.

Have an o-line including Damien Woody (#5 PFF 3 yr pass blocking efficiency) D’Brickshaw Ferguson (#8 PFF 3 yr,) Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore. They may not have the skill position depth we do, but Sanchez is proving himself, they have decent WRs and they were fourth in rushing yards last year.

The Jets do not have the same gift for plug and play as the Steelers, Pats and Ravens. Don't know if that is a talent or coaching issue, so I would consider it a negative.

STEELERS: Had a point differential of +8.9 a game, and were +17 in TO differential; in the AFC North! Offensive blue collar is off the charts. They play in the toughest division for offensive and defensive line play, IMO. People sleep on the Browns and Bengal’s lines, but they both do actually have a couple stars on them. With Colon (#1 PFF 3 yr, PB efficiency), Flozell (who had a very respectable year at RT and only had three penalties,), Pouncey and Starks, they have a TE in Heath Miller who made PFF’s top 15 pass blocking efficiency last year.

I believe Ed Reed’s overall career will exceed Polamalu’s. But only because Polamalu plays with so much heart that he is oft-injured (MBIII). The defenses he leads are historically good at creating turnovers, and last year ranked first in INTs taken. They were also first in points and rush yards given. They also have Harrison, Timmons and Casey Hampton.

They have the best backup QB in the league. A very heady group of players, their star power is great not so much because of the number, but because they have leaders. They have a lot of unproven depth but they prove over and over again that their talent can always step in to fill holes.

EEEAK!GULLS: I would not be in love with this roster if not for wins and coaching, neither of which are supposed to be considered here. Also, I do not fear their swag; maybe if Vick strings together good years… Good field-goal unit, but otherwise lackluster ST units. They do have the big play factor, as much as I hate to admit it. The team that used to have such a motor and attention span is now a little less focused, IMO.

I hesitate to take this teams’ recent history into account because their offense is so different than three years ago. Looking only at last year, they had a monster year. Ironically, what has historically been a nasty defense ranked 21st in points, and twelfth in yards allowed.

They did cause 34 turnovers last year.  Vick’s game is respectable enough to make this list, they currently have Kolb as backup and a great receiving corps. They finally have a true RB to complement the short-pass-as-run scheme.

They picked up the oldest first round pick in recent memory but he is almost a lock to help their o-line immediately. Celek is a bad blocker and has a high drop percentage per PFF, via O.C.C . Nick Cole and Mike McGlynn both made PFF’s bottom rankings for pass blocking efficiency in 2010. They actually drafted three o-linemen and three LBs, including Greg Lloyd, so we’d better be ready :). Seriously, though, Jackson remains a top ten C in the league, IMO.

D was top ten in sacks last year and #3 in INTs. They recovered as many fumbles as they forced last year, which is the sign of  awareness.

PACKERS: It was easy to root for them, especially against the Steelers. They are a terrific example of a team who has plenty of talent, but not a roster of stars. They are a team that seems to enjoy being around each other. People are friendly up in WI, dontchaknow? The players on this team also exude confidence without coming across as exceedingly cocky.

They have a few top-5 players and have enough stud vets that player-leadership is not lacking. They mix that with enough young blood that it works out spelling depth. Were number two in INTs taken last year. You can run on these guys but can’t score.

If they have a glaring weakness it is at O-line, in spite of a C who is consistently elite in pass protection per PFF. One of our brilliant commenters said that the NFL has evolved into such a pass happy league that getting a TB on a LB is almost sure to either cause a completion or a penalty. He likened that the Packers are a finesse offense, and evidence supports it. They gave up a ton of QB hits in the regular and post-seasons last year, but they were fifth in passing yards and top ten in points and total yards.

RAVENS: IMO they are the epitome of a roster that makes each other play well. The Patriots come to a game ready to dissect an opponent as would Spartans. These guys come in on the cerebral side of a Zulu warrior and Apache scalp-hunter mix. Other aspects of their star power are equally impressive.

They have leadership oozing out of their ear holes. If you don’t have to game plan for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Houshmandzadeh, Boldin, Rice, Flacco and two of the nastiest, deepest lines in the league… They make a ton of huge plays on D and ST. Their kicker does not have the biggest leg, but their punter Koch puts up numbers that rival McBriar.

This roster has repeatedly surprised me over the last several years in their ability to input CBs who had little or no experience and have them hold their own water. Their entire D rotates well. They have one of the best young QBs in the league and Bulger and Tyrod Taylor as backups. Their 2nd string RB is Willis McGahee and they have a lot of young ball-carriers.

Somehow, though, these things do not translate into gaudy team stats, except they surrender very few points. They drafted a speedy receiver to complement three very good possession receivers. They picked up two DBs, including first rounder Jimmy Smith, who I liked better than Amukamara. They also got Jah Reid for their O-line. One thing you can sayh about this team is they fail to win big games in spite of a great D.

5Blings suggested the N.O. Saints: They do have a star QB and plenty of other star power. They picked up Cam Jordan AND Mark Ingram in the draft. New addition Zach Strief is top 10 PFF 2010 pass blocking efficiency, the fact that PFF has him listed as a TE, had him at OG, and as OT is only more impressive.  

They played well against a tough division. Their leadership has a ton of swagger. This is another team that seems to enjoy one another’s presence.  Offensively and defensively, they do not have a good yard/points ratio.

PATRIOTS: I am not going to take a lot of time on this team. The Patriots as an organization do things right, and it shines through in their roster. No matter what talent is lost to injury or FA, they do nothing but fill holes. They produce two extra QBs a decade to shop around. They have smart players who aren’t stars. But you don’t need a load of stars when you have a Tom Brady. There is a reason that players chose him over GQBOAT Manning…

And where is our Wes Welker?

BUCS:  I am not familiar with their roster. All I know is that they have been one of the young teams in the league for three years now, and they have really come together as a team. They have one of the best young QBs in the league, Freeman is a leader but they lack proven depth behind him. TE John Gilmore made PFF’s top 15 pass blocking efficiency over the last three years, but was bottom 15 last year… C (OL,) seems to be a question mark, as does WR, and they drafted neither.

Their youth is ultimately what would make me pause to take this squad. Star power is definitely lacking at least for now.  They play in a very tough division and run the ball well. However, they also surrender a lot on the ground. They drafted Da’quan Bowers and Adrian Cayborn to help with that, though.  I do believe they are more than a flash in the pan and are second or third best third-place team from last year.

 FALCONS:  It is hard to not respect what the Falcons have done over the last three years. Matty Ice is going to be a darn good QB. If Julio Jones pans out, this entire team is everything you want, including the only TE who deserves to be in a conversation with Witten. Barely. Clabo is a real stud.

Their D creates TOs, gives up pass yards, but not rush yards or points. These guys play with swag but are either too young or too old.

They led the NFL in KR average. Have an average punt team, but they never have to punt. They have a very respectable offense and can run up the middle. They lack QB depth. They have young stud receivers and wiley vet receivers. I do not see them being loaded to the point that we are, however.


 Good, but not quite in discussion: NYG and CHI, who I feel are good, but overall are overrated. Our losses to both teams in 2010 were the result of a few plays, Gmen injured Romo, but we still only lost by six... The Giants have our o-line form two years ago. Da Bears also get their QB’s tail kicked in almost every week, giving up the most regular season sacks and Getting Cutler ingured in divisional round playoff loss to the Pack.

MIA who lacks a remarkable QB, has no WR depth but has a good ground attack and an interesting D; pretty much the opposite of IND.

DET, who many of us feel is most underrated team in league. They have skill position talent on O, monster DTs, but as C_A eloquently observed, their defensive backfield is hot trash. Still, they surrendered less points than us before adding Fairley.

KC is decent.

The Judgement: O.C.C. released a post today about what he predicts our roster will look like next year. It is valid to this conversation because in his scenario our roster does not pick up a lot of outside talent. Only two safeties and two DEs… That speaks volumes as to where we are.

Looking at total roster strength, I would trade with three teams. We really do have a lot of youth, though. We have stars in their primes. If our team were headier and had a solid FG kicker, I would not trade with anyone.


Did you know Coach Landry is tied for 17th on PFW’s highest single-season Adjusted Value? Set in 1954 at 30 years old.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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